Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak (SSFS)
The Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak run St Joseph’s Private Primary School. Read below for more information about this religious congregation.
This diocesan women congregation that is based in Sarawak derives its origin from the Congregation of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of St Joseph (FMSJ) established in England in 1883.
The humble beginnings of these sisters started in 1878 when Bishop Herbert Vaughan of Salford asked Alice Ingham and several of her close companions to undertake the management of domestic household tasks at St Joseph’s Foreign Missionary College in Mill Hill near London. In 1866, Vaughan had already started this college to train priests for foreign missions. These priests are also known as the Mill Hill Missionaries, a name that came from their motherhouse.
Since childhood, Vaughan had been filled with zeal for foreign missions. He decided to found a great English missionary college to fit young priests for the work of evangelizing non-Christians abroad. Thus, St Joseph’s College was founded at Mill Hill.
Incidentally, all five of Vaughan’s sisters became nuns, five out of his seven brothers became priests and two of these eventually became bishops like him.
Vaughan went on to become the second Bishop of Salford in 1872; the Archbishop of Westminster in 1892; and received the cardinal’s hat in 1893.
Although this meant that he had to relinquish his role as the local superior of St Joseph’s College, he remained until his death the head of the Missionary Society of St Joseph (otherwise known as Mill Hill Fathers).
Vaughan himself travelled to America with his first four missionary priests. This led to the successful establishment of a mission in Baltimore, Maryland, out of which developed, by 1892, a separate society, that of the Josephite Fathers in the United States.
His other notable achievements: the establishment of the Rescue and Protection Society, a philanthropic organization working with Catholic children in the north of England; in 1868 he started the Catholic Truth Society; and in the same year he bought and edited the Tablet, using its columns to spread the message of the Gospel. The Tablet is now a popular Catholic monthly publication in the United Kingdom. As the Archbishop of Westminster, he laid the foundation of Westminster Cathedral.
It seems that in the 1870s, Vaughan had a rift with the Jesuits concerning provision for secondary school education and was only settled eventually in Rome after the personal intervention of the pope. In 1850, Pope Pius IX recreated the Roman Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England and Wales which had been extinguished during the reign of Elizabeth I (1533–1603). The legal situation of Catholics in England and Wales was altered for the better by the Catholic Relief Act 1829. New names had to be given to the dioceses, as the old ones were in use by the Church of England.
The Jesuits had been present in England and Wales during and after the Catholic suppression. Many of the middle class and the elite looked to the Jesuits to provide education for their children. These people claimed the right to do so, irrespective of the wishes and rights of the newly re-established local bishops. Moreover, the superiors of the Jesuits were also protective of their traditional privileges and heirs to centuries of service to the English Catholic community.
While the immediate issue was the provision of secondary education, at stake were key questions of authority between the newly restored bishops and religious orders that had troubled the English Catholic community for centuries. Vaughan’s case was a classic example of this kind of contention between the bishops and the religious orders at that time. The final solution from Rome in this case played a major part in improving the relationship between the bishops and all religious orders, including the Jesuits.
Alice Ingham was born on 8 March 1830 in Yorkshire Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, England. Her mother, Margaret, died when she was 12. Later her father, George, married her stepmother, Elizabeth.
After an elementary education, Ingham went to work in a woollen mill, after which she worked with her father who was a draper (a person who sells cloth). By 1861 she was running the family business, which was then called “Ingham’s Caps and Confectionery.”
She was a very practical, able and good business woman who kept the shop going.
In 1861 Alice became a member of the Secular Third Order of St Francis under the spiritual guidance of a Franciscan, Fr Gomair Peteer.
Her father died in 1865.
In 1871 Ingham started a small religious and charitable organisation of women after receiving advice and encouragement from a priest. They began living a simple community life together as Franciscan Tertiaries in her shop on Yorkshire Street in the Diocese of Salford (founded in 1850) under its first bishop, William Turner. They helped the poor and worked among the sick in the parishes of all denominations. Since they were trying to establish themselves as a religious congregation, there was a period of probation on Ingham’s group.
Unfortunately, Turner died before the decision to become a religious congregation could be made.
In 1872, Vaughan was nominated the second Bishop of Salford. This appointment caused him serious personal distress. He wrote to Pope Pius IX, begging release. He cited his responsibilities at St Joseph’s College as the main reason for him declining. However, the pope did not agree. He instructed him to remain superior, but appoint a vicar for day-to-day affairs of the college. Vaughan obeyed and invited Peter Benoit, Canon Provost of Salford, to be his vicar at Mill Hill. Benoit agreed, joined the Society and remained rector of the college from 1872 until his death in 1892.
In 1878 Vaughan suggested an alternative probation for Ingham and her group in order for them achieve the aim of establishing themselves as a religious congregation, that was, to take over the household management of St Joseph’s College. He wanted these women “to be to the priests of St Joseph’s Missionary Society what the holy women of the gospels were to the Apostles.” Since the college was in London, they moved their group there. They readily undertook the routine domestic toil at the college.
Vaughan actually had in mind a group of Anglican nuns whom he had received into the Catholic Church at Hammersmith. When Holcombe House, the original St Joseph’s College became redundant to the college’s needs because a much bigger new building was built in its extensive grounds, he offered it to these Sisters. They accepted. Vaughan’s private agenda in this was that they might take charge of the college’s domestic needs. However, they refused. Later, they did agree to become involved in the overseas work of the Society. They worked alongside the Mill Hill Missionaries, first in Baltimore and then in Uganda.
In 1883, when their period of probation was over, Ingham’s group of women was formally accepted as a religious congregation.
On 8 September 1883, Ingham took the religious name of Mother Mary Francis, and together with eleven of her companions professed themselves as members of the Franciscan Third Order, and made the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They became the Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph, who are associates of the Mill Hill Missionaries.
As associates of the Mill Hill Missionaries, the Sisters not only provided local support for the training of priests, but also established their own mission territories, for example, in Borneo and later in Africa, thus helping to further realise Vaughan’s missionary vision.
Vaughan also asked Mother Francis and her Sisters to help him look after the children in the Salford Diocese in 1886. The Sisters provided support for Rochdale and Salford’s orphans, poor, sick and the dying and soon became known as the Rescue and Protection Society.
Ingham spent the last few years of her life bedridden and very ill in Blackburn. She died on 24 August 1890. She was buried in the grounds of St Joseph’s College at Mill Hill.
In 1841, James Brooke, an Englishman was granted a sizeable area of land in the southwest area of Brunei by the Sultan of Brunei. This area is around the present day city of Kuching. Thus began the rule of the White Rajahs in Sarawak, a dynasty of the Brooke monarchy from 1841 to 1946 when Sarawak was handed over to the British as a colony after the Japanese Occupation.
James Brooke was Rajah from 1841 to 1868. Based on descent through the male line in accordance with his wishes, the leadership continued through Brooke’s nephew, Charles (1868–1917) and later his grandnephew, Charles Vyner (1917–1946).
Whilst James laid much of the groundwork for the expansion of Sarawak, his nephew Charles, was a great builder. He constructed public buildings, such as a hospital, museum, the Astana and forts. He also worked to extend the borders of the state.
Since the Brookes were Anglicans, the Anglican mission was started early and St Thomas’ Anglican Cathedral is prominently situated in the town center of Kuching. In 1848 at the invitation of James Brooke, a party of missionaries arrived. They were given a large piece of land on which they started the mission and a school (1848) which later grew into St Thomas’ School for the boys and St. Mary’s School for the girls.
As for the Catholics, in 1879, the Prefecture of Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei was entrusted as an independent mission by Propaganda Fide to the Mill Hill Missionary Society. The following year Rajah Charles Brooke approved Vaughan’s request to start a Catholic mission in Sarawak. He allocated to the Mill Hill Fathers a 10 acre piece of land along Rock Road at Mile One, somewhat further away from the town center than the Anglican mission.
St Joseph’s mission was started here in 1881 with the arrival of four Mill Hill priests, namely Thomas Jackson (Apostolic Prefect), Edmund Dunn, Aloysius Goossens and Daniel Kilty.
The following year, 1882, St Joseph’s school for boys began. The early Catholic converts came from the boys of this school. They were mostly Chinese.
In order to sustain the faith and continuance of the faith, these bachelors would need Catholic wives. No girls attended St Joseph’s school. Furthermore at that time, no man could have started a catechism class for females. The obvious answer to this problem would be to found a school for girls and that could only be done by nuns.
In 1884 Jackson as superior of the mission in all northern Borneo, travelled to England to recruit nuns after realising the need to extend education for the girls to complement that of the boys.
Jackson and Vaughan approached Mother Francis at her convent. It was said that so many volunteered that a lottery had to be carried out to identify the first group to be sent to Sarawak.
In the end five Sisters were sent to Borneo and they arrived in Kuching on 5 July 1885.
The Sisters’ arrival was reported in the Sarawak Gazette, 1 August 1885. Benediction was carried out in thanksgiving to God for the safe arrival of the Sisters. Then they were taken to their temporary rented home which was a roomy wooden bungalow raised on stilts.
Within a year or so, St Teresa’s Convent was built. The name was chosen for them by Jackson. Besides that, he also controlled their finances.
The five Sisters were:
Sr Helen Downs, a strong Englishwoman was appointed leader of the group. She had joined the original Rochdale group and was one of the first Mill Hill College workers, in charge of the kitchen.
Sr Teresa Cheetham was the daughter of Mother Francis’ sister. She had been teaching and therefore was appointed as the first headmistress of St Teresa’s School. She could be considered the founder of St Teresa’s School. In 1891, she was sent to Sandakan where she started St Mary’s School.
Sr Mary of the Cross was in charge of day to day housekeeping. She often stayed in the convent while the other nuns travelled.
Sr Aloysius Dwyer was Sr Helen’s deputy.
Sr Josephine Morris would later spend many years outstation with Sr Dwyer in different settlements outside of Kuching.
The Fathers advised the Sisters that since they themselves wore black cassocks even under the hot tropical sun, they needed to wear black habits too.
The first five girls of St Teresa’s School were daughters of Chinese merchants in Kuching. Initially they were persuaded to come over to the convent to simply play around the compound. The idea of educating Chinese girls was too outlandish in the thinking of the Chinese in the nineteenth-century. Girls just remained at home and did not venture out until marriage.
Gradually Sr Mary explained to the five girls that if they were good children they would learn to be very clever. She taught them simple needle work and music.
Communication between Sr Mary and the girls would had been difficult as the girls would know only their Chinese dialect.
The five girls became the day schoolers.
Soon after, the nuns received their first orphans; five of them. Fr Haidegger baptised them and the Sisters had their first five little Christians under their roof. These became the school boarders.
The reputation of the nuns began to spread and people came to prefer to put their infants into the Sisters’ hands rather than to give them away to relatives or sell them to strangers. In those days, extra girls born into a poor family would be given away or sold without much thought. Boys were preferred as they were able to support their aged parents whereas girls would eventually be married off and belong to another family. It would be a burden for poor families to bring up girls.
However, many of the children at the convent were genuine orphans. Some were boys who were sent over across the road to St Joseph’s once they reached puberty.
By 1886, the nuns moved into their new solid structured convent made of belian iron wood on which the current convent now stands.
Ranee Margaret, the wife of Rajah Charles Brooke visited the convent often as one of her official duties. Her visits made it a socially accepted pastime for the Englishwomen living in Kuching and they would bring gifts for the orphans. They would also buy fine needlework which the Sisters and pupils made to supplement the convent’s income. Furthermore, the Ranee encouraged female education.
The time for trained teachers and nurses only came in the twentieth-century. Until the Registration of Schools Ordinance of 1924, any nun could and did teach. Even after that date, the nuns might be employed as unregistered staff at Sister Principal’s discretion. Until that point, a nun did what a mother would do: she looked after babies, nursed the sick, instructed the older children in prayer, taught them the catechism and the basics of reading, writing and counting, and sewing.
In the early twentieth-century, St Teresa’s School also began to accept fee paying boarders. This is due to an increase in demand for educating girls from outside Kuching. Their daily routine included attending Mass, formal lessons and helping in the nursery caring for the younger ones, in the kitchen or in the sewing room learning needlework.
The new brick convent building was opened by the Rajah Muda on 15 October 1925. Two thirds of the donors to the building were Chinese businessmen who were very supportive of the school. Mother Helen, FMSJ and Fr Haidegger, MHM were commended on their magnificent effort.
The convent and school’s maintenance came from charitable donations in kind, from funds raised locally and overseas, from fees levied from wealthier students, and from the sale of needlework for which the convent was famous.
Life at the convent was orderly and frugal. Whatever the nuns could save on, they did with the utmost care. Nothing was wasted. For example, clothes were handwoven, reused and remade until finally pieces ended up as patchwork for other clothing or cleaning rags.
There were generally six to eight nuns at St Teresa’s at this time.
On 17 December 1888, the Sisters extended their service in Kanowit, mainly to provide education for the girls. Sr Aloysius and Sr Mary went to Kanowit.
In 1889 another convent called St Cecilia’s Convent was built in Singai, Bau with Sr Clare Gowan and two other nuns.
In 1891 four new FMSJ Sisters arrived in Kuching thus increasing their number and providing the human resource to set up more convents leading to their being established in Dalat, Mukah and in North Borneo.
In 1898 the FMSJ Sisters were established in Limbahau and Papar, North Borneo.
In 1914, the Sacred Heart Convent (later called St. Elizabeth’s Convent) was established in Sibu.
In 1926, the FMSJ felt it was ready to begin the formation of a local Congregation of Sisters in Sarawak. Two boarders of St Teresa’s Convent, Agnes Yeo and Antonia Boon received a small crucifix each from Fr Haidegger as a first step towards formation as nuns. Thus, St Teresa’s Convent became the first local novitiate of the Little Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak (LSSFS). In 1927 another woman, Teresa Chan from Sandakan, joined the two already in the postulancy. The three postulants stayed at Rock Road in a large wooden bungalow built on stilts with a wide verandah.
On 10 January 1928, Rt Rev Msgr Edmund Dunne, MHM, the then Prefect Apostolic, motivated by a vision that local girls could also play caring roles and contribute to the growth and work of the Church, authorized the institution of the local Sisterhood, officially called “Little Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak,” with the objective to engage themselves to follow the rule of the Third Order of St Francis of Assisi as laid down in the Motu Proprio of Pope Pius XI.
In Lent of 1928, the first three postulants received the holy habit and became novices under the training, direction and care of Novice Mistress Mother Mary Francis McGreeves, FMSJ. Two more candidates, Magdelen Smith (Sr Rita) and Anna Ah Mi (Sr Therese) from Jesselton joined them.
Fr Hopfgartner was asked by Msgr Dunne to compose a book of rules for the nuns. He first studied the statutes of St Ann’s native nuns of Madras Archdiocese which also belonged to the Third Order of St Francis. He decided that since the Sarawak nuns would be long time only auxiliaries of the more established Third Order of St Francis, they should follow as far as possible their rules with minor modifications as might seem necessary. They would be under the direction of Mother Provincial of the various Sarawak convents for a start.
On 26 July 1928, the formal decree of establishment of the Little Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak (LSSFS) was issued by Msgr Dunne as approved by the Sacred Congregation for Religious and the congregation was formally set up on 3 December of the same year.
On 20 May 1930, the first three novices made their first vows. They were Sr Cecilia Yeo, Sr Rose Boon and Sr Clare Chan.
The LSSFS grew. Some of them were sent to the outstation to work with the FMSJs.
On 18 November 1939, Msgr Aloysius Hopfgartner, MHM, the third Apostolic Perfect of Sarawak issued a new Constitution for the Little Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak.
During the Japanese Occupation, 1941 – 1945, all the activities of the nuns stopped. The convent at Padungan was used as a first aid station for war casualties. St Teresa’s Convent was occupied by the Japanese soldiers who used the ground floor of the left wing as their high court.
Later, St Theresa’s Convent, Padungan became the internment camp for all European civilians. After the internees were transferred to another internment camp situated at Batu Lintang, the convent became unoccupied.
The Little Sisters, except for those living in Kuching, were scattered in all directions, taking refuge among the natives in the rural areas. Postulants and novices carried on under the guidance of Mother Sebastian, FMSJ who was an Austrian not interned by the Japanese because Austria was an ally of Japan.
After the war, in January 1946, all local nuns were called to Kuching to make a retreat and prepare for their final vows. On 9 April 1946, Sr Cecilia Yeo, Sr Clare Chan, Sr Rita Smith, Sr Elizabeth Choong, Sr Ursula Wong, Sr Catherine Abor Langi, Sr Veronica Lee, Sr Margaret Sim, Sr Bernadette Tan, Sr Antoinette Then, Sr Teresa Sim, Sr Martha Pek and Sr Magdalen Liew pronounced their final profession in the presence of the Prefect Apostolic, Monsignor Aloysius Hopfgartner and Mother Bernardine O’Driscoll (Mother Regional) and witnessed by Mother Francis McGreeves (Novice Mistress).
The next day, 10 April 1946, Sr Cecilia Yeo was elected the superior of the LSSFS with a 15 to 3 majority. From April 1946 until 1952, she was the first superior of this pioneer community. The first community was at St Theresa’s Convent, Padungan. Three Sarawak Franciscan Sisters formed the pioneer community with Mother Cecilia Yeo as their superior.
The increase in number of the local nuns and the mass profession of final vows marked the first step towards autonomy.
New convents were opened in Sarikei in 1950 and in Serian in 1951. The Serian convent, St Joseph’s Convent was opened together with a maternity hospital, St Marian’s. Three trained mid-wives were involved in this maternity hospital, namely, Mother Veronica Lee, Sr Margaret Sim and Sr Winifred Low. More convents followed suit.
On 14 February 1951, Monsignor John Vos who succeeded Monsignor Hopfgartner as Prefect Apostolic was appointed the first Vicar Apostolic of Kuching. He thought it advisable to write a new set of constitutions according to the Norms for Diocesan Congregations and submit them to the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith for approval. At the same time, he asked for permission to hold a General Chapter of all professed nuns with perpetual vows for the time had come for the LSSFS to be entirely on their own.
On 9 April 1951, Sr Rita Smith was unanimously elected Superior of the LSSFS. There were 18 professed Sisters then.
1n 1953, St Anthony’s Convent in Mukah which was opened in 1928 by the FMSJ Sisters, was the first convent to be given to the LSSFS.
On 28 November 1955, the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith authorised Vicar Apostolic Vos to convoke a General Chapter for the LSSFS, participate in the election of the Superior General and four councillors according to Canon Law by all Sisters with perpetual vows and to legitimatise all defects which might be found in the establishment of the Institute and approval of the Constitutions.
Bishop Vos sent a letter of notification to all Sisters who had made final vows to vote and attend the General Chapter. The electors were reminded to guard against canvassing for themselves or others. The letter was also copied to Mother Joseph Connaughton, FMSJ, the then Mother Provincial.
The first day of the Chapter was held on 30 December 1955. Subsequently Mother Rita Smith was elected as the first Mother General of the LSSFS. The first four councillors were Sr Teresa Sim, Mother Veronica, Sr Bernadette Tan and Sr Ursula Wong.
The new Mother House and novitiate was opened on 29 December 1955 by Bishop Vos. The first retreat was held there by Fr William Wagenaar, MHM.
On 8 January 1957, the LSSFS was officially established as a Diocesan Congregation in the Vicariate of Kuching. Bishop Vos officially approved the Constitutions of the LSSFS on 7 February 1957.
The Sisters started missions at the Baram area in 1958.
In 1965, the second General Chapter was held under the presidency of Bishop Vos and Mother Rita was re-elected as Superior General for another ten years. However, she died in 1970 and an acting Superior General was found in the person of Mother Teresa Sim. She was later elected as the second Superior General in 1971.
In August 1966, a change was made in the habit that the Sisters wore. A soft veil replaced the starched one. It was tied at the back of the neck with a tape and fastened with pins to the band. The wide sleeves were narrowed at the forearm and fastened with press studs at the wrist. The cape and black veil remained as part of the habit.
In December 1971, Mother Teresa Sim, convoked a Special Renewal Chapter in response to Second Vatican Council. The Congregation’s name was changed from “Little Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak (LSSFS)” to “Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak (SSFS),” signifying an indigenous identity. The Constitutions and Directives were adapted to the changing situation and to the signs of the times. The changes were approved by the Sacred Congregation in August 1973.
The local Sisters continued to work alongside and under the direction of the FMSJs between 1971 – 1978 until their departure from Sarawak, Sabah and Seria (Brunei). It was then that the local Sisters were asked to take over their (FMSJ’s) responsibilities and continue the mission they have started.
Over the years apart from pastoral and catechetical work, the Sisters have been actively involved in different activities and apostolate which include caring for widows and unwed mothers, running Benevolent Homes and providing counselling service to people especially the youth. Some Sisters are also helping married couples, teaching them natural family planning method. The schools which the missionary priests had built, namely, St Teresa’s Convent School, St Teresa’s Kindergarten, St Bernadette’s School in Kuching; St Elizabeth’s School in Sibu; the old St Anthony’s Convent and Maternity Home at Mukah; St Clare’s Convent and the Mission Hospital in Kanowit were handed over to the local Sisters. In 1978, St Angela’s Convent School, Seria (Brunei) was also handed over to them but after some years it was closed down. Above all the FMSJs left behind for them a legacy of deep Franciscan spirituality and their exemplary qualities of kindness and charity to the poor and the needy. The Sisters are still taking care of some of these handicapped people in the convents as well as in the Benevolent Homes.
An important part of the SSFS’s apostolate today is outreach. The Sisters are encouraged to go out to people as part of their evangelization programme. The Sisters are also encouraged to use their initiatives and to share with others the talents that God has given them. On 20 July 1996, Sr Susan Dulang and her team of Sisters produced the first musical album entitled Kelahiran Cinta.
In 1993, during the term of office of Sr Flora Tingang, the fourth Superior General, the First General Assembly was held with the Vision and Mission Statement formulated for a clearer direction into the future. Four Commissions were established, namely, Commission of Vocation and Formation, Commission of Ongoing Formation, Commission of Mission and Apostolate and Commission of Finance and Temporalities to lighten the role of the administration. On the advice of His Grace, Archbishop Emeritus Dato’ Sri Peter Chung, the Generalate of the Congregation was relocated to St Teresa’s Convent, Kuching. His Grace officially blessed it in November 1996.
Appreciating the past, the Congregation celebrated the 70th anniversary of its foundation in 1998. Under the leadership of Sr Flora Tingang (three terms of office), the Congregation have gone through tremendous renewal both in spiritual and formation programmes. Franciscan spirituality and charism were studied in depth with the help of the Franciscan Friars (OFM) particularly from the Australian and Indian provinces. The Plan of Formation was revised and renewed. Sisters were trained in relevant professions and skills. The Congregation also delved and ventured into new ministries thus extending our missions to Peninsular Malaysia: Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, Diocese of Melaka-Johor and Diocese of Penang. However, the community in Sitiawan (Penang Diocese) was closed down later.
During the 10th General Chapter held in December 2006, Sr Adriana Tiong was elected as the fifth Superior General. Following the new mandate of the updated Constitutions of the Congregation, the new term of office of the Superior General and her council was changed from five years to six years.
By the consecration of their whole lives through the observance of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, observing the spirit and charism of St Francis of Assisi, the Sisters are actively involved in the apostolates of education (particularly in kindergartens and nurseries) where faith formation is greatly emphasized, evangelization (catechetical – formal and informal), pastoral (outreach: home and hospital visitations, counselling and related), social work (day care nurseries, aged nursing homes, handicapped and pro-life centres) and medical services for the glory of God and the spread of the Kingdom of God among the poor, the youth and needy.
Since the national schools no longer accept religious to teach in their schools, the Sisters reach out through other means to give education and faith formation to the younger generation whereby they are now involved in teaching in a private school, namely St Joseph’s Private Primary School and as well as operating kindergartens and nurseries.
The SSFSs owe their gratitude to the Mill Hill Missionary priests who were instrumental in bringing Christ to the people of Borneo. It was the Mill Hill’s initiative that brought the FMSJs to this part of the world who in turn trained the local Sisters to carry on their ministries when they left Sarawak for good.
Living in simplicity and humility after the example of St Francis of Assisi, we the Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak commit ourselves to a life of personal conversion, religious consecration and joyful service to the poor, the youth and the needy. We witness to Christ in response to the signs of the times and with respect for other people’s faith.